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Reproductive and gynaecological health 2019

How to improve your chances of starting a family


Dr James Nicopoullos

Clinical Director, Lister Fertility Clinic, HCA Healthcare UK

Whether you’re thinking of starting a family or would simply like to know how to improve your fertility chances for the future, there are some key factors that you need to be aware of. 

Monitor your general health

It’s no secret that leading an unhealthy lifestyle by being overweight, smoking and/or regularly drinking alcohol can have a negative effect on mental and physical wellbeing. However, many people are surprised to learn just how much these factors can also put their fertility at risk. If looking to conceive, men and women should maintain a healthy BMI, moderate their alcohol intake, and cut out smoking altogether in order to give themselves the best chance of success.

Whilst maintaining good general health is very important, extreme diets or lifestyles which involve having too low a body fat percentage can cause hormone imbalances which are detrimental to fertility. Therefore, it’s critical for men and women to keep testosterone, progesterone and oestrogen levels balanced and healthy.

Think about egg freezing

After the age of 35, female fertility starts to decline at a quicker rate. However, today more women are choosing to have a baby later in life due to career and lifestyle factors. In response to this, many women are now choosing to freeze or preserve their eggs to enhance their chances of conceiving through IVF when they are a bit older and feel ready to have a child.

If women wish to delay motherhood, then egg freezing is something to consider. With the introduction of new freezing techniques, the current success rates make it a viable option with some studies suggesting that frozen eggs do as well as fresh ones.

Consider your surroundings

Recent studies have shown that there has been a 50% decline in sperm counts in Western men over the last 40 years. One of the factors that is believed to be causing this decline is an increased exposure to harmful toxins, which are produced by industrial and agricultural sectors.

Men who want the best chance of conceiving can take measures to lessen the amount that they are exposed to these damaging toxins by eating organic or locally produced food with less pesticide exposure, minimising the use of plastic and PVC containers, avoiding extremely high temperatures for long periods of time, and evading environments where radiation is present.

Have an ‘MOT’

Even before trying to conceive, both couples and individuals may have concerns about their fertility health or be keen to optimise their fertility for when the time comes. A fertility ‘MOT’ involves a series of lifestyle and medical assessments which check for abnormalities and fertility risks.

For a lot of men and women, fertility doesn’t tend to be a priority until they decide to try for a baby, this is most often the time when underlying fertility issues come to light. Undergoing an MOT can be a worthwhile investment to help both individuals and couples gain clarity on their fertility health and plan for the future.

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